Monday, January 07, 2008

Israel a refuge for most Jews from Muslim lands

In his blog Jeff Weintraub reflects on the irony that Israel, a state established as a refuge for European Jews, has ended up housing the vast majority of Jewish refugees from Islamic lands. The narrative of these Jews should now, as Irwin Cotler has proposed, be incorporated in any future peace deal.

"For most of the history of Israel, the majority of Israeli Jews have been Jewish refugees from the Islamic Middle East--the Arab world and Iran--and their descendants. In most cases, they came from Jewish communities whose presence in the Middle East long pre-dated the coming of Islam. As it happens, the number of Jews who fled or were expelled from the Arab world and Iran in the aftermath of 1948 is roughly equivalent to the number of Arabs who fled or were expelled from what became Israel. With the arrival of the Russian Jews in the 1990s, the Mizrahim for first time ceased to be the clear majority of Israeli Jews, and now there may even be a slight Ashkenazi majority--but given relative birth rates, this situation is probably temporary.

"To look at it from the other direction, the overwhelming majority of the Middle Eastern Jews wound up in Israel, whereas most of the European Jews did not wind up in Israel--more of them went to the US and elsewhere (or were murdered). In short, the Zionist movement may have intended Israel to be primarily a refuge for the European Jews, but that's not what actually happened. Instead, Israel has turned out to be primarily a refuge for the Middle Eastern Jews--and the one place in the Middle East where they have some degree of self-determination. (...)

"Given the importance of the Mizrahim in these and other respects, it is remarkable how little role they play in the predominant historical/ideological narratives about the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is clear enough why they have been largely ignored or marginalized by the Arab side and their supporters, who have focused on the "European" dimension of Israel's Jewish immigration and have been understandably inclined to equate "refugees" with "Palestinian refugees." What is more surprising is that they have played such a minimal role in the corresponding narratives from the Israeli side, whether from the peace camp or from their opponents. [....](For some further discussion of these issues, see Shalom Lappin's "Avoiding Distortions of History," Joseph Braude's "The Jewish Refugee Problem," and Albert Memmi's powerful mixture of historical analysis and autobiographical reflection, "Who is an Arab Jew?".)

" Irwin Cotler, a Canadian Member of Parliament, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, and a major figure in international rights law, correctly insists in a recent article that

"The time has come to rectify this historical injustice, and to restore the "forgotten exodus" to the Middle East narrative. "Remedies for victim refugee groups -- including rights of remembrance, truth, justice and redress -- must now be invoked for Jews displaced from Arab countries, as mandated under human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, each of the Arab countries and the League of Arab States must acknowledge their role in the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals.

"Further, the peace plan currently being promoted by the Arab League should incorporate the question of Jewish refugees from Arab countries as part of its narrative for an Israeli-Arab peace, just as the Israeli narrative now incorporates the issue of Palestinian refugees in its vision."

Read post in full


Anonymous said...

Muslims and Jews demand highest Yad VaShem honour for His Majesty Mohamed V, the World War II King of Morocco, of blessed memory

A group of Jews and Muslims has submitted a formal written request to Yad Vashem the Holocaust Memorial in the Israeli capital to confer the highest postume honour upon His Majesty Mohamed V, King of Morocco during the Second World War. The group is pushing for the former Monarch to be admitted to Yad Vashem s Righteous Among the Nations, who have risked their lives to recue Jews during the Shoa.

Mohamed V (1909-1961)

The formal demand has been submitted by letter and email. The demand is the beginning of a long formal procedure. The Director of the Washington based Institute for Near East Policy wrote a most favourable book on the personal conduct and policies of the war-time Moroccan Monarch. Robert Satloff describes the anti-Semitic persecutions suffered by Jews in Arab lands during the Shoa. He put the positive role His Majesty Mohamed V played into new perspectives.

The formal request to have King Mohamed V as the first Arab leader to be named amongst the Righteous of the Nation has obvious goals; to rapidly improve the ties between the State of Israel and the Arab League Member States, enhancing the U.S. initiated Arab-Israeli Peace Process.

The formal request was already endorsed by His Excellency Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel , Tzipi Livni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Interior Minister His Excellency Meir Shitreet and numerous Israeli politicians of Moroccan extraction. In Morocco Serge Berdugo, the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities formally endorsed the demand to Yad Vashem.

Whether King Mohamed V will be eligible to receive the Yad Vashem honour remains uncertain, given the strict eligibility rules. According to the initiators of the formal demand the King risked his personal life to save Jews from the Nazi´s and their French accomplices, since it was their policy to send partisans hiding Jews from Nazi-persecution directly to the destruction camps such as Auschwitz. Moroccan King Mohamed V, quietly resisted against French anti-Semitic edicts in Morocco. A 1941 telegram from the French Foreign Ministry, uncovered in the mid-1980`s, discussed the worsening tensions between the Vichy-French authorities and the King following is unwillingness to distinguish between his subjects.

The history of war-time King Mohamed V teaches coming generations about the excellent relations between Jews and Arab and Berber Muslims in Northern Africa during the passed millennia. This lesson is an important teaching aid for Holocaust Studies.

Moroccan-Dutch educator Mustafa Shlimani, after visiting Yad Vashems Holocaust Studies Department in Jerusalem states: "When teaching Holocaust Studies to Dutch Muslim teenagers in Holland I always diffuse the students own hostility towards Jews and Israel. I use the rising Islamophobia to help them connect to the persecution of Jews. We, like the Jews, are circumcised too. The Nazi´s used to pull down pants to see if a boy was circumcised. Such a boy always ended up being send to a concentration or destruction camp. So Muslims in Europe would receive the same treatment from the Nazi´s. Drawing parallels between Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism can work in certain cases. Beside this I always remind my Muslim students of our shared mono-theistic values and our shared history in the Maghreb, which are equally powerful educational tools. Moroccan youngsters must be tought democratic values and profound respect for Jewish-Christian-Humanist cultural heritage in Europe."

"Maghrebian religious-humanistic values have a huge impact on Israeli society, the Moroccan presence there with 1.000.000 citizens is enormous. They really push the Middle East Process forward. Exactly that is what this world needs. We wholeheartedly embrace the Christmas speech of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands."

Morocco has interesting opportunity to be 'healer', 'unifier' in Middle East, US president

Washington, Jan.5 - Morocco has an interesting opportunity to be a healer and a unifier in the Middle East, mainly because of the presence of a large Moroccan Jewish community in Israel and in the north African Kingdom, said American president George W. Bush on Friday.

Speaking at a roundtable interview with foreign print media, the American head of State, who expressed his great appreciation of the leadership in the King of Morocco, noted that the presence of "a lot of Moroccan Jews" in Israel and in Morocco "provides the King an interesting opportunity to be a healer and a unifier" with regard to the peace process in the middle East.
The U.S. President, who is expected to visit the Middle east region as of January 9, regretted the fact that his tour will not include the Maghreb region –a regional grouping mustering, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya – due to a heavy schedule.
"The contribution of those (countries), of that area would be a significant contribution to achieving peace" in the Middle East, he pointed out.
Touching on his visits to the Kingdom, Mr. W. Bush said "one of my great trips as a civilian – I guess you'd call me a civilian - non-President, non-political figure - was when I went to Morocco."
"I had the great pleasure of going to Marrakech (...), and enjoyed the wonders of the desert, and then was able to see snow-capped mountains shortly in the distance, in the short distance," he concluded.

Last modification 01/05/2008 12:54 PM.
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bataween said...

Thanks for this. I covered this story on 14 December 2007